SIKESTON -- As the April 1 deadline for the 2002 Farm Bill sign-up nears, several area farmers have been left in a state of confusion and frustration after scrambling to locate their old farm settlement records.
"Most of the confusion farmers have had is that every farm is different," said Mississippi County Farm Service Agency (FSA) Program Technician Angie Hutcheson. "And another thing is they have to show proof of the previous four years' yields -- and for some, it's tough to get their hands on those records."
Basically the 2002 Farm bill is a secure farm bill and there are two options, said David Reinbott, agriculture business specialist for the Scott County Missouri Outreach and Extension Office. Farmers can keep their old crop base they've had over the last 20 years and add soybeans to that, or they can update the base acres on their yields from the last four years and add soybeans, he explained.
Something that makes updating base and yields difficult is that each farm must be updated individually, Reinbott said.
Some farmers may have 10 farms or more to update and it can get really confusing, he explained.
"For example, farmers who are cash-renting their land may have lumped all their acres together and sold their grain. Well they could have two farms on one settlement sheet and not have proof of each farm individually, Reinbott noted. "Also farmers might be able to get settlement sheets from grain elevators but again, it won't say which farms the grain came from."
Farmers who have recently inherited land or have been renting land less than four years may be a little more frustrated than farmers who have access to all of their records, Hutcheson noted. It's very possible the farms have changed several times, she said.
Fortunately for those who have had trouble getting their hands on some of their records, a new provision has been made to compensate farmers. USDA Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced Jan. 31 that farmers who did not own eligible land in prior years and/or did not farm the land and cannot locate historical production evidence, the county committee can now establish a yield. The yield is based on similar farms in the local farming community or the loan deficiency payment records for a specific farm. The assigned yield can't exceed the county yield.
Prior to these revisions, producers applying for these programs had to accept 75 percent of the county average yield.
Those farmers who have already accepted the 75 percent county average yield may also take advantage of the new procedure by contacting their local FSA, according to the USDA.
Regardless of which option farmers choose and they should choose one, they will be setting their yield base for the next six years, Reinbott noted. So at minimum, farmers should certify their soybeans, he added.
When updating their contract base acres and farm program yields, farmers can utilize the 2002 Farm Bill Base and Yield Update Option Analyzer (BYA), developed by the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University, Reinbott suggested.
"It's the closest calculation tool to what FSA is using," Reinbott said. "You enter your farm's information and it will calculate which price scenario of about 500 possibilities is the best option for you to use."
The BYA is a decision support program to help farmers analyze the economic consequences of the updating options outlined in the 2002 legislation taking into consideration potentially risky crop prices and their impacts on counter-cyclical payment rate, according to FSA.
Farmers must make appointments with their county's FSA office to turn in their base acres and yield updates, Reinbott reminded. Some farmers will wait until the last minute to make their appointments, but several have already turned in their updates, he added.
"We have not had the problem other counties are experiencing," Hutcheson said. "In fact, we're already booked with farmers until the third week of March. We've been lucky."
To access the BYA online tool, visit the Farm Service Agency Web site at www.fsa.usda.gov.